Rata carving by Nigel Hamahona

Materials: Rimu, muka, hawk feathers, Paua, paint, wax

Dimensions: 31in x 7 1/2 in


This taonga depicts the ancestor Rata at the moment he was taught how to placate the Lord of the Forest — Taane Mahuta.  The design on his forehead represents the prayers he was taught from the creatures of the forest who also assisted in the construction of his Waka Taua — war canoe.

The muka and Hawk feathers offer movement in the carving which otherwise would appear static and motionless.

Korero:  Rata was in the forest wandering about wondering what to do about retrieving the body of his father who had recently died when he decided he would chop down a tree and build a waka — canoe. He selected a tree, felled it, and went home planning to return in the morning to begin building the waka — canoe. When he did return he found the tree wasnt lying on the ground as he’d left it but standing as if it had never been felled.

He chopped the tree down again this time trimming the trunk and removing the bark and and went home with the same result when he returned the next day.He chopped the tree down a third time, this time trimming and shaping the tree and scooping out the inside and decided to sneak back during the night to see what was happening

When he approached the tree in the dark he saw to his amazement that birds and insects were reassembling the tree to return it to its original state. Rata apologised for chopping down the totara and explained why he was doing so (to retrieve his Father), then offered to help lift the totara back into place.

When dawn came Rata was all alone, the little creatures had gone, and the totara was back in its original state. Rata vowed to never chop down another tree, and a voice near him told him that he may, but he must ask permission from God of the Forest, Taane Mahuta first.  As Rata returned home he came across a mighty war canoe sitting on logs in the forest, and he asked if it was his, and the voice said “yes, Rata’s waka”

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